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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 May 2007, 13:14 GMT 14:14 UK
Race hate in Louisiana
This World investigates the rise of discrimination in America's deep south as six black youths are charged with an alleged attack against a white student, which could see them jailed for between 30 and 50 years.

Jesse Rae Beard: one of the black Louisiana youths on trial
Jesse Rae Beard: one of the 'Jena Six' students on trial
Thursday 24 May 2007
1900 BST on BBC Two

In the year that the first black candidate has a serious chance of being nominated for - and becoming - the President of the United States, "This World" travels to the deep south of America to investigate how race relations have changed since the civil rights upheavals of the 60s.

Reporter Tom Mangold looks at the tiny town of Jena, Louisiana.

Nooses in the playground

In September last year at the local high school, a black student asked a teacher for permission to sit under the tree in the school yard, where white pupils traditionally congregated. The teacher told him he was free to sit anywhere.

The next morning, three nooses were found hanging from the same tree.

This open and challenging symbol of the old south, perpetrated by white students, was taken as a prank by the school board.

But to others it was seen as a race hate crime.

"To us those nooses meant the KKK [Ku Klux Klan], they meant, "Niggers, we're going to kill you, we're going to hang you till you die,"' says Caseptla Bailey, a black community leader and mother of one of the accused.

Racism in Jena

"Race hate in Louisiana" asks why Jena, like so many other small towns in the south, retains a de facto form of segregation despite so many social changes; why the whites live in comfortable homes and most of the blacks live in trailers; and whether small town politics are stopping the white establishment from addressing racism in Jena.

In contrast to the "prank" treatment, Mangold questions why six black students face possible life imprisonment for a school yard assault on a white student, prosecuted by an unusually tough and committed district attorney.

The programme witnesses the growing calls for change from the black community.

"This World" is there when leading outside civil liberties groups arrive to give Jena's black community the will and the encouragement to organise resistance to enduring prejudice.

It seems that Jena is fast becoming a symbol for the next stage in the civil rights struggle in America.

Producer/Director: Sophie Todd
Reporter: Tom Mangold
Executive Producer: Louise Norman
Editor: Karen O'Connor


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